DSM Revision Petition (2008)
Recipient: American Psychiatric Association
Webmaster's Note: This page was originally published in 2008. The DSM has been revised since then. The petition described here is not longer active or relevant. This page remains here as a historical document.
In 2008, Susan Wright, MA of National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) circulated a petition calling on the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to require that all diagnoses in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) be based on empirical research. It was part of the NCSF's DSM revision campaign.
Wright and the NCSF was responding to the demonization of healthy individuals resulting from the diagnoses in the DSM-IV-TR and prior editions.
In total, 808 parents contacted the NCSF’s IRR program from January 2005 to December 2017 to report that a determining factor in their child custody hearing was their BDSM, fetishism, cross-dressing, and/or non-monogamous behavior.2 These parents were being investigated by state social services because of their sexual behavior or they were in divorce or custody disputes with ex-partners and their adult sexual behavior was introduced as a determining factor. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) was used by judges, social workers, and psychological evaluators to “diagnose” kinky people with a paraphilic mental disorder and then deny them child custody on that basis.
A case study illustrates how legal and social service professionals typically regarded BDSM behaviors in child custody cases before the DSM-5: a mother in a Midwestern state requested help from the NCSF in mid-2009 after losing custody of her 4 children and while undergoing investigation by the Department of Social Services Children’s Division because she engaged in consensual BDSM. The mother’s psychological evaluations showed no mental illness and there was no sign of abuse; however, the social worker quoted from the DSM-IV-TR and objected to reunification between the children and their mother, adding “With regards to [the mother’s] alternative lifestyle; can she separate this from her parenting? There has been some questions arise from other team members regarding her sexual sadism.”
The DSM Revision Petition is gathering signatures from individuals and organizations calling on the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to require that all diagnoses in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) be based on empirical research. The DSM Revision Petition will collect signatures from June 2008 through December 2009.
We, the undersigned, support the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) own goal of making its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) a scientific document, based on empirical research and devoid of cultural bias. A diagnosis of a mental disorder can have a severe adverse impact on employment opportunities, child custody determinations, an individual's well-being, and other areas of functioning. Therefore we urge the APA to remove all diagnoses that are not based upon peer-reviewed, empirical research, demonstrating distress or dysfunction, from the DSM. The APA specifically should not promote current social norms or values as a basis for clinical judgments.
Out of the 4,0000 goal, 3,288 supporters signed the petition.
The petition is closed, but you can still view the petition, the signatories, and comments made to it online.
In 2013, the APA published the DSM-V in which consensual sdaomasochostic paraphilias are considered to be an “unusual sexual interestz,” while those who practice non-consentual sadomasochism or deliberately hurt themselves or other, may be diagnosed with a Paraphilic Disorder.
- Susan Wright, MA, "De-Pathologization of Consensual BDSM" The Journal of Sexual Medicine, New York University, Institute of Fine Arts, New York, NY, USA
- DSM Revisions: The DSM-5 Says Kink is OK! on the NCSF website.
- What's ‘normal’ sex? Shrinks seek definition By Brian Alexander (msnbc.com.) May 22, 2008, 5:33 AM CD.
- DSM History and the Diagnoses for Homosexuality and Sadomasochism